Posted by: jwhiff | November 21, 2010

When In Doubt, Take Photos!

I am very happy that over the course of the past couple of field trips, I have decided to bring along my camera.

At first, I thought I was doing this simply to chronicle our efforts.  I now realize just how useful photographs are for continuing the field study in our classroom and for being an inspiration for reflective writing.

On our boat trip with Ruth and Rod, I took photos of every animal or unusual object that we discovered.  I didn’t quite have a reason for this.  I just suspected that it might be useful.  When we got back to the classroom, I showed the photos to my students and we discussed what we learned about each of the animals.  The following day, I thought I would give them a little quiz on identifying the animals.  I’m not big on quizzes, but I thought that they would enjoy seeing the photos again and trying to remember what they were.  It actually was a good little exercise.  They did seem to enjoy it.  Plus, it helped them when they needed to write about our field trip and when they needed to transfer their field trip notes into their science notebooks.

The writing exercise was very simple.  I wanted them to complete a proper journal entry on glogster.  They needed to choose photographs from our field trip (stored on Mobile Me), create a layout on a glogster page, and write about what they did and saw.  I often select photos from the week to give to the kids to inspire their journal writing.  Here, though, they got a chance to choose the photos.

It also worked really well.  The students all chose several photos before starting their writing, which shows how much they enjoyed the photo selection process.  The writing came after.  Most students wrote very good entries, using names and details about the creatures they had seen.  I was pleased to see them bring together their writing skills and science observations.

I have also used the photos in an activity related to animal adaptations, our theme this week.  I showed them the photos one at a time.  First, I encouraged them to observe the physical characteristics of the animals.  Then, I had them choose from the following options:

  1. The animal’s body is adapted to help them get food.
  2. The animal’s body is adapted  to help them stay safe.
  3. The animal’s body is adapted to help them find a mate.

It was incredibly simple, but it really got them thinking about the purpose for adaptations.  Plus, the students do not know for sure whether or not they are correct, but they are interested to find out.  I see this kind of exercise as being like formulating hypotheses about each animal.  Next, they will need to observe the animals more and ask experts to find out.

So, there you have it.  It seems so basic, but taking photos in this kind of study is potentially powerful.

We’re off on another field trip this week.  Ruth and I have planned a bird watching trip and will be working with expert Rob Butler for the first time.  Should be great, although it will be quite a bit harder to take photos of birds.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. HI, it’s me again,
    I was wondering where you were planning on going bird watching because I always enjoy taking a stroll on the rocky point trail to old orchard park and always see quite a few interesting birds.


    P.S. if you don’t mind could you email me a few of the bird photos you got?

    • Hi Kaleb…

      We are heading out this Thursday. I hope to set up a database of all of the birds we see over the course of the year. If you are interested, I’ll send you a link to the database once it is done. You can add what you see as well.

  2. Hello there,
    I took a migratory bird course once, on Sapelo Island, off the coast of Georgia, S.C. During the course, we were advised to learn bird calls, related them to English “words” (ie chick-a-dee, dee, dee; piiizzzza; peeeee-weeee) because the chances of seeing the actual critter was actually quite low given the lush green surroundings. Anyhoo, might be fun idea in the classroom in the meantime. I’ll see if I can find some bird calls on tape somewhere.
    Leigh S.

    • I think that is an excellent idea. I’d love to give it a try. Betcha we could find some stuff online too.

  3. Hi there,
    Sorry its been so long, But I would be interested to view the pictures of the birds you find, however I will be unreachable form Dec. 3rd- Dec. 14 by email, phone etc. I will be in the Bahamas during that time and if you would be interested, I’ll take photos of whatever birds I see.


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